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Shoppers’ new initiatives sets chain up to become retail giant

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT While the decision to move in this direction may have been made before Chong Bang crossed the border, there is no questioning that industry watchers will be focused on what SDM’s new top merchant will do to further improve the stores.

(THE NEWS: Shoppers Drug Mart takes a page out of CCR playbook. For the full story, click here)

That has a lot to do with Bang’s pedigree — he’s directed a significant merchandising program at Walgreens, one of the leading pureplay pharmacies in the United States. And now he’s at Shoppers, the leading drug store retailer north of the border.

Bang will be armed at Shoppers with the sales data generated by 9.7 million members of the pharmacy’s Optimum loyalty program, 80% of whom are women. When you consider that there are only 34 million Canadians, that means that almost 1-in-3 Canadians are members of Shoppers’ loyalty program, and almost 1-in-2 Canadian women.

Presently, Shoppers plans to grow its square footage at a clip of 8% to 9% with a new distribution center slated to open in 2010 to help support that growth. And that’s really going to be Bang’s merchandising challenge — finding a way to slip one more item into that Shoppers marketbasket in a saturated marketplace. Bang certainly can’t build front-end sales by attracting new customers. There just aren’t that many Canadians who don’t already shop at Shoppers.

For Bang, it’ll be a question of optimizing categorical synergies and in doing so help drive impulse purchases. Similar to Walgreens, Shoppers is on a mission to make a good shopping experience better, and Bang’s expected to help realize that goal.

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Walgreens gift cards in demand by American consumers, index finds

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK An independent research and advisory group found that when it comes to gift cards, American consumers want them from one of the largest drug store chains.

The Global Prepaid Exchange found that gift cards from Walgreens were among the top preferences of American adults, according to 2,300 people surveyed in its Gift Card Performance Index. The drug store chain ranked No. 8 on the list.

Dan Horne, professor of Providence College in Rhode Island and the study’s principle investigator, said the high levels of consumer performance result from an interaction between the store and the gift giver’s perception of the tastes of the recipient.

“If a gift card giver really thinks about the kinds of store that a recipient likes, they will certainly make the experience more rewarding,” Horne noted. “Gift cards tend to be effective gifts because they show thought about the type of stores that recipients like, while still promoting a sense of autonomy and choice.”

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United Supermarkets launches NuVal nutritional scoring system

BY Allison Cerra

LUBBOCK, Texas In an effort to aid its customers in making healthy food choices, United Supermarkets is implementing a nutritional scoring system throughout its United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos United grocery stores.

NuVal is a ranking system that provides comprehensive nutritional information of foods through a comprehensive scoring system. With the NuVal System currently assisting guests at Market Street’s Colleyville and Frisco, Texas, stores to better food choices, United debuts as the first grocery chain to implement the innovative nutritional ranking system in Texas.

All six of the company’s Dallas-Fort Worth area Market Street stores will feature the NuVal system by mid-March, and the company plans to have all 50 stores outfitted with the new system by the end of the year.

“NuVal’s innovative food scoring system is revolutionizing the shopping experience, and we’re proud to be the first Texas grocer to bring this innovation to our aisles,” said Robert Taylor, EVP and CEO, United Supermarkets.

In addition to the NuVal implementation, United staffs dietitians throughout its stores and serves as one of the founding members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, whose stated mission is to reduce obesity by 2015. HWCF members already have committed more than $20  million to the joint initiative to raise awareness about the importance of balancing a healthy diet with physical activity.

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